Your menstrual health is a mirror reflecting your well-being. According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, each month your menstrual cycle provides insights into the balance of your doshas, or the fundamental energies governing your body. A balanced cycle is one that arrives predictably and smoothly, devoid of dramatic disruptions. Imagine having a monthly cycle without any distressing surprises. In this blog, we will delve into the Ayurvedic approach to addressing menstrual health in adolescent girls. Adolescence is a critical period for establishing healthy menstrual patterns that can last a lifetime. However, it’s estimated that within a year or two of their first period, 50 to 75 percent of young women experience painful menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea. This statistic is indeed staggering, considering the potential impact on their lives.
- Challenges in Adolescent Menstrual Health
- The Emotional Connection
- Understanding a Healthy Cycle for mentrual health
- Listening to Your Body
- Understanding Dosha Imbalance
- Seeking Balance in menstrual health
Challenges in Adolescent Menstrual Health
Being a tween, teen, and eventually an adult is challenging enough without the burden of menstrual imbalances. The goal is to restore balance to this monthly cycle during adolescence so that it functions optimally throughout life. If your menstrual cycle exhibits irregularities such as being too heavy, too light, prolonged, infrequent, too frequent, or absent altogether, these are issues that warrant attention.
Let’s break down some common menstrual irregularities:
- Heavy Flow: This is characterized by the need to change a pad, tampon, or menstrual cup every hour.
- Irregular Cycle: An irregular cycle is one that does not arrive every month as expected.
- Too Frequent: A cycle that occurs more than once in a month is considered too frequent.
- Absent Period: Amenorrhea is when a menstrual cycle has not occurred for more than three months.
It’s essential to note that heavy and irregular bleeding, often referred to as dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB), can indicate underlying medical problems in teenagers. DUB is typically caused by hormonal disturbances that affect menstruation.
The Emotional Connection
Menstrual imbalances often go hand in hand with mood-related challenges, and there’s a biological basis for these mood swings. According to the National Institute of Health, up to 90% of women of reproductive age experience various premenstrual symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms can take a significant toll on emotional well-being.
Common physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) include:
- Swollen or tender breasts
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Bloating or a gassy feeling
- Headache or backache
- Lower tolerance for noise or light
Emotional or mental symptoms of PMS include:
- Irritability or angry behavior
- Feeling tired
- Sleep problems (either sleeping too much or too little)
- Appetite changes or food cravings
- Trouble with concentration or memory
- Tension or anxiety
- Depression, feelings of sadness, or crying spells
- Mood swings
If any of these symptoms resonate with your experience, it’s crucial to continue reading.
Understanding a Healthy Cycle for mentrual health
Ask yourself, do you truly know what a healthy menstrual cycle is? Are you accustomed to enduring cramps, relying on pain relievers like Midol, or using birth control to suppress disruptive symptoms, all while convincing yourself that you’re “all good”?
In many cultures around the world, menstruation was once revered as a time for women to recharge and reflect. However, in today’s fast-paced world, the expectations are different. Long school and work weeks, demanding extracurricular activities, maintaining social connections, building networks, and personal growth all continue during menstruation, even when you may feel bloated and cramped.
Contemporary lifestyles often fail to support a balanced menstrual cycle. As a result, many individuals endure painful periods for years, sometimes throughout their entire lives. The good news is that Ayurveda offers an alternative perspective, suggesting that menstruation doesn’t have to be synonymous with suffering.
Listening to Your Body
Many things we experience, especially when it occurs regularly or ongoing, we tend to adjust to and think that’s just the way it is. But it’s our body telling us our doshas need balancing to function more optimally. Symptoms are the body’s way of communicating with us, that it needs help. Let’s not just deal with it, let’s address it!
Let’s explore some detailed symptoms of menstrual imbalances as understood in Ayurveda:
Symptoms of Menstrual Imbalance
- Heavy Flow and Clotting
- Irregular or Scant Periods
- PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
- Blood Clots
- Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB)
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Weight Gain or Bloating
- Joint or Muscle Pain
- Weakness and Exhaustion (May lead to extreme tiredness or shortness of breath)
- Acne Flare-ups
- Anxiety or Feeling Tense
- Crying Spells or Depressed Moods
- Mood Swings, Irritability, Anger
- Trouble Sleeping
- Feeling Faint
- Diminished Concentration
- Extended Symptoms (Feeling like your cycle lasts all month)
- Bleeding Between Periods
- Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea)
- Cycle Dominance (When your day, week, or month are dominated by your cycle and disrupt your life)
Chances are, you’ve experienced one or more of these symptoms at some point. You might have even accepted them as an inevitable part of having a female reproductive system. However, it’s important to recognize that modern medicine often treats these issues as isolated problems to be managed with medication or contraceptives, rather than addressing their underlying causes.
Understanding Dosha Imbalance
In Ayurveda, understanding how the doshas influence your menstrual cycle is key to comprehending why problems arise when these energies become imbalanced. The doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—play a crucial role in determining the state of your monthly cycle.
When we examine the list of symptoms mentioned earlier in terms of the doshas, we can gain a deeper understanding:
- Vata – An imbalance in Vata is associated with scant, irregular, or absent flow. When your period does arrive, imbalanced Vata may manifest as anxiety and insomnia, sharp or stinging cramps, and unusual blood discoloration.
- Pitta – Pitta imbalance leads to burning cramps, intense emotions like anger and irritability, acne breakouts, and a clotty, hot, or heavy flow. In severe cases, menstrual hemorrhaging may even necessitate blood transfusions.
- Kapha – An imbalanced Kapha dosha results in heavy or prolonged periods, bloating, and an increased susceptibility to yeast infections. You may also feel sluggish, depressed, and unmotivated, often preferring food (and Netflix) to maintaining a regular routine.
Seeking Balance in menstrual health
It’s all about balance. A healthy menstrual cycle is characterized by equilibrium—neither too heavy nor too light, neither too frequent nor too infrequent. How do we achieve this balance? By harmonizing the doshas and treating the whole person.
The Ayurvedic Approach to Menstrual Health
Rather than merely addressing individual symptoms, Ayurveda seeks to treat the entire person. In this holistic system of medicine, menstrual health is viewed as a window into your overall well-being. The aim is not to control or suppress symptoms but to use them as guideposts that point to the root causes of dosha imbalances.
Your menstrual cycle has a profound impact on how you feel in your body, mind, and emotions throughout your entire life. Ayurveda offers a path to bring your doshas and reproductive system back into balance, with the potential to restore equilibrium to your entire life.
Balancing the Doshas for Menstrual Health
The key to achieving menstrual balance according to Ayurveda is addressing dosha imbalances. Here’s how Ayurveda approaches it:
- Vata Imbalance – For those experiencing Vata-related menstrual issues, the focus is on grounding and calming practices. These may include warm, nourishing foods, gentle yoga, and meditation to alleviate anxiety.
- Pitta Imbalance – To counter Pitta imbalances, Ayurveda recommends cooling practices, such as incorporating cooling foods like cucumber and coconut into your diet. Meditation and mindfulness can help manage anger and irritability.
- Kapha Imbalance – Individuals with Kapha imbalances benefit from practices that stimulate energy and movement. Regular exercise, warm spices like ginger, and invigorating self-care routines can help combat lethargy and depression.
Adolescence is a crucial period for establishing healthy menstrual patterns that can last a lifetime. The Ayurvedic approach to adolescent menstrual health offers a holistic perspective that prioritizes balance and well-being. Instead of masking symptoms, Ayurveda seeks to address the root causes of menstrual imbalances by harmonizing the doshas.
Embracing Ayurvedic principles can transform your experience of menstruation from one of suffering to one of harmony and empowerment. By nurturing your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, you can not only achieve a healthier menstrual cycle but also enhance the overall quality of your life.
Remember, your menstrual cycle is a window into your well-being—listen to your body, embrace Ayurveda, and embark on a journey to menstrual health and balance.